iPod-friendly downloads from libraries

by Michael Alderete on 12/15/2008 · 19 comments

A couple of weeks ago, OverDrive, a technology vendor that provides many libraries with the software behind their download-to-loan content, released a new version of the OverDrive Media Console that is now Mac-compatible and iPod-friendly. It accomplishes this by providing loanable downloads in MP3 format, instead of a DRM-wrapped WMA (Windows Media) format.

It’s not clear to me how OverDrive protects the downloaded content, enforces lending period constraints, or otherwise restricts the use of audiobooks downloaded using their system. Some of the instructions and FAQs make it sound a little cumbersome, and generally content producers (the audiobook publishers) require pretty strong restrictions. So I’m a little hesitant to install the new software on my computer (I really need to get a test system…), fearing some hidden DRM kernel extension, or other invasive software.

It’s also not clear to me how much content is available to the new Media Console, at least in the MP3 format supported for Mac users. The older WMA format is much more broadly enabled, as it includes DRM restrictions that publishers are comfortable with. But you can search OverDrive’s national directory of libraries and see if content is available from a library or other source near you.

If you give it a try, let me know how it works for you. Otherwise, I’ll try to give it a whirl in the new year, and post an updated then.

TomW December 20, 2008 at 7:34 pm

On the topic of a test system, if you are running a Mac you could clone your system to an external drive using SuperDuper software. You could then boot from the external drive and use it as a “test” system.

i ahve the same problem December 29, 2008 at 4:11 pm

i have the same problem i just barrowed eclipse from the twilight siries and it came as wma .. i need a way to make it mp3 so i can play it on my ipod

Judy L Jones January 2, 2009 at 10:11 am

Please continue to research this! Audiobooks from my library is the only way I can afford to get them on a regular basis. I just got my first Mac this past fall, and I’m hoping to order an ipod for my birthday, so I want to make sure I can get my library’s audio books onto the ipod!

Thank you so much for your time and effort. I found your site VERY helpful

mary ann January 16, 2009 at 6:02 am

I have the 3g iphone and have have downloaded an audiobook but it downloaded into an album not audiobook. Can you help with what I might be doing wrong?

Alderete January 16, 2009 at 11:14 am

@mary ann: That, and many other frequently asked questions, is answered in the “FAQs”:/audiobooks/itunes/frequently-asked-questions/#q11.

Gayle February 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I tried the i-Pod/Mac friendly downloads from my library recently. The selection of MP3 titles is still dismal compared to their WMA selection, but hopefully this will be changing soon. As noted in previous comments, the files are not recognized by iTunes as audiobook files, and so are placed in the music section. Each book is broken into approximately 1 hour segments, and you end up with many files per book. The file compression is not great, so they take up more space than titles from Audible or Audiobook Builder. But, I had no difficulties in downloading and using them on my iPod. I’d rank them as intermediate in convenience between books on CD and Audible downloads, but not really a viable option until the selection improves.

Another option for audiobook listening that my library has recently began offering is called Playaways. These are stand-alone players that have an audiobook preloaded. All a user has to supply is a battery (AAA) and a pair of earbuds and they are ready to go. The selection is limited, but heavily slanted towards bestsellers/mysteries. One that I used to test the system was The Closers by Michael Connelly. While I already own this title from Audible, it’s one worth listening to more than once. I found the Playaway player to be easy to use, and accurate at bookmarking where I paused. It’s not as stylish as my Nano, but is small enough to be easy to carry. I like the fact that the player has the cover from the title. One minor gripe is that the sound level resets each time you stop. Also, while the time remaining in the current chapter is displayed, there is no display of time remaining in the complete book. But, these are very minor issues. Due to their convenience and fact that they can’t (easily) be reproduced, I think that the Playaways have a great future as the mediaplayer of choice for libraries.

Brian March 6, 2009 at 7:02 am

Interesting, I’ve never heard of loanable ebooks. It sounds like a good idea in theory, if they can make it work right in practice. I do wonder how they actually carry this out and I’ll be checking back often to see if you’ve tried it.

As for the WMA files, I’m pretty sure iTunes converts all imported WMA files to m4a, which is a format the iPod recognizes. I haven’t tried it myself but Gayle says it breaks the files up into 1-hour segments, which I think is strange. But still, it’s not a very big deal in my opinion. Nor do I think it’s a very big deal that the files go into the music library instead of the ebook folder. As long as it works, I’m happy.

Beverly April 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

I have a weird issue. The book from overdrive is on my iPOD but I can’t find it in iTunes 8 on my PC. Any suggestions.

Kristen April 21, 2009 at 6:38 am

I use Overdrive MP3 audiobooks all the time. They are easy to download and transfer from my PC to my iPod, and although they do download as albums, it is easy to switch them to the audiobook section of iTunes. The selection has grown a lot at my library since they first rolled these out, and I suspect it will keep growing. They expire after 21 days at my library, but they’re free and you can check them out again, so this is not a problem. Thumbs up!

Brenda May 28, 2009 at 6:02 pm

I am having an issue with my iPod touch losing the Internet even at home with my wireless Internet up any ideas?

Gwyn July 8, 2009 at 7:34 pm

The Orange Co. Library, CA. has about 1,000 audio-books you can now download for free and put on your i-pod. There are 2009 released best sellers to be checked out, but there might be a waiting period. Not an issue for me there are so many more books to listen to while on the waiting list. Very easy to download and transfer to i-pod! You do need to download the free Overdrive Media Console for downloading and transfer to i-pod. Happy Listening!!!!!!

Sarah August 23, 2009 at 9:05 pm

Just wanted to let you know how extremely helpful and informative your site is- thanks for keeping it up. I’m a long-time listener and lover of audiobooks, and have done the free thing from the library for years (best thing ever!), but am new to ipod. I’m so frustrated that the free downloadable books from the library aren’t compatible with ipod, but your site is helping me navigate through options. Thanks a ton.

Erin August 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Just as Beverly said back in April….. I can listen to the Overdrive books on my ipod with no problems but they don’t show up in my itunes library so I can not delete them off my ipod when I’m finished. Has anyone else had that problem and found a solution??

Kay November 7, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Erin, I have the same problem where the files don’t show up on my itunes library but are listed on my ipod. I haved asked the Overdrive Media tech team to solve, but they have been working on it for a few days.

Stephanie November 19, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I just came across your excellent site filled with so much useful information. However, the posts I’ve been reading are a year old on the Overdrive Media Console. I don’t know if you’ve updated your thoughts. I’ve been using the Overdrive on my Mac and iPod touch for a year now and I love it. I couldn’t live without it. The drawback is that even thought there are hundreds of books in MP3 format, there are many more wma files. In order to listed to those books, I must put them on our Dell laptop and listen over my stereo system. I need another iPod (probably Nano as per your suggestion) because I don’t want to sync my iPod Touch with the iTunes that’s on our PC.

Melora November 23, 2009 at 4:51 pm

I just got my Nano and have downloaded a book but iTunes isn’t recognizing it as an audiobook; instead it is in the music folder. How do I transfer it? Also, why does it start over everytime I turn on the iPod again? I thought it would automatically start where I left off.

GreatDane813 July 9, 2010 at 6:58 pm

I too, am having the same issue with deleting iTunes ’ audiobooks from my ipod, even though I have nothing in iTunes showing the download, only from iPod. The books appear in my iPod Classic 120 gb as Audiobooks, they do not appear anywhere on iTunes. Also the new Real Player update showed some of the oldest audiobooks and I was able to delete them, they are not in iTunes but are on my iPod. What is going on? If I Sync Audiobooks it wants to delete everything on my iPod!!! What a world, what a world!

joel April 19, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I can listen to the Overdrive books on my ipod with no problems but they don’t show up in my itunes library so I can not delete them off my ipod when I’m finished. Has anyone else had that problem and found a solution??

Ellen K August 13, 2011 at 2:35 pm

To delete Overdrive audiobooks from your iPod, you must delete it from your iPod files, not the library files. Overdrive loads it directly onto the iPod, and not into the library. Use the arrow in a circle to the left of your iPod name to drop down the iPod contents.

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